4 BITS: SEC Network, Horschel, Smith, Calathes

1 » With just six weeks to go until the launch of the SEC Network, there are still plenty of cable and satellite companies that have not come to an agreement on terms with ESPN to carry the channel. However, according to FOXSports.com, Comcast appears to be the next in line to make a deal with the World Wide Leader in Sports. Company spokesman John Demming claims that Comcast and ESPN are “working out final details” for the network with an agreement expected to be announced “in the near future.” Currently, the SEC Network is only scheduled to go live on AT&T Uverse, DISH Network and Google fiber. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are the other major entities that have not agreed with ESPN, though Comcast’s agreement to purchase TWC for $45 billion will likely make that contract signing easier. (Same with AT&T attempting to acquire DirecTV in a similar deal.) Smaller cable companies are expected to come to terms to carry the channel once the larger deals are struck. Florida Gators fans concerned about whether Cox Communications will have the station should take solace in the fact that it would be bad business and public relations for the SEC Network to go live without fans of one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference able to watch it.


The SEC Network on Monday also announced that 10-year veteran anchor Dari Nowkhah has reached a multi-year deal with ESPN an will host the station’s “weeknight news and information show,” called SEC Now. The new show will debut on Thursday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. [Pictures: Set renderings]

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Six Florida Gators selected in 2014 MLB Draft; Shafer, Whitson decide to turn pro

The Florida Gators baseball team saw six of its current players selected over the weekend in the three-day, 40-round 2014 MLB Draft, though it is unknown as of press time how many of those drafted players will leave the program and turn professional.

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue was the first Florida player drafted when he was chosen in the fourth round with the 131st overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the second time in three seasons that the first Gators player picked in the draft spent his career behind the plate.

Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, selected by the Boston Red Sox with the 344th overall pick in the 11th round, was the third UF player drafted but first (of two thus far) to announce his intent to forego his remaining collegiate eligibility.

“The Red Sox saw something in me and they’re giving me an opportunity to work hard for a team that’s sticking their neck out for me,” Whitson told Steven Petrella of MLB.com on Saturday. “Some other teams are looking at [the] negative of my situation. It humbles me that Boston sees positives in a kid that still has a lot to offer.”

Leaving $2.1 million on the table to play for the Gators after the San Diego Padres picked him No. 9 overall in 2010, Whitson had a tremendous freshman season but fell off a bit as a sophomore. He then missed his true junior campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery before rebounding as a redshirt junior to go 1-1 in 14 appearances (nine starts) with a 3.86 ERA in 2014.

Junior RHP Justin Shafer was the second Florida hurler drafted and second to decide to start this pro career, signing with the Toronto Blue Jays late Sunday. The Blue Jays nabbed Shafer in the eighth round with the No. 234 overall pick.

Below are the current Florida players that were selected from Thursday-Saturday.

Round 4 – No. 131
Taylor Gushue, C
Pittsburgh Pirates


Height: 6’2″ – Weight: 215 lbs.
B/T: S/R – Class: Junior

Eligible for the draft for the first time after bypassing the 2012 process by enrolling early at Florida, Gushue was one of the youngest players available over the weekend. He displayed power with the Gators – smacking team-highs of six homers and 49 RBIs as a junior as well as five dingers in each of his first two years – and served as Florida’s permanent catcher. Some believe he projects better as a first baseman on the next level, but Pittsburgh chose Gushue because of his work behind the plate and plans to keep him there should he decide to turn pro. Gushue is expected to sign with the Pirates.

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, Tebow, Watkins, Mincey

1 » No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (24-13) smacked the ball around Tuesday on its way to a 7-1 victory and regular-season series win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (24-14) at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL. The Gators were embarrassed in a Gainesville, FL round robin from Feb. 27-March 2, splitting a pair of games with the Eagles, but came up big Tuesday. Junior catcher Taylor Gushue (3/4, 2 RBI, R) was one of six Florida players to drive in a run, and sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (3/5, RBI, 2 R) did his job in the batter’s box as well. UF used four pitchers to seal the deal against FGCU with junior right-hander Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, H) earning the start and victory. Freshman lefty Kirby Snead (4.0 IP, H, K) ate up the most innings, and freshman RHP Shaun Anderson (1.0 IP) closed the door. The Gators have now won three-straight and four of their last five games.

2 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow last week spoke at the Mississippi Coliseum as part of a fundraiser to help support Afghanistan war veteran CJ Stewart. Not only did Tebow himself pledge $10,000 and get four more audience members to do the same – meeting Stewart’s $100,000 goal – he also fielded questions about his life and football. Tebow said he hopes people won’t “talk about football when they talk about me in 50 years,” preferring his legacy to be “how I cared about people, and that I did something to make their lives better.” Seeing as he was in Mississippi, he also discussed UF’s loss to Ole Miss in 2008. “I consider that one of our biggest blessings,” he said, according to The Clarion Ledger. “We were a very talented team, but we needed more motivation. We went to practice in full pads that Sunday, and it was the most intense practice I’ve ever been in. So, thank you very much, Ole Miss.”

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Benches clear as Florida baseball tops No. 1 FSU

Florida Gators baseball has been up-and-down this season but pulled off its second-straight victory over the top team in the nation on Tuesday when it fought through a bench-clearing scuffle and took down the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles 4-1 at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL.

Florida, which also beat Florida State 3-1 in Gainesville, FL last Tuesday, clinched the regular-season series over its in-state rival. The Gators (16-9) and Seminoles (19-5) will play the last contest in their three-game series in Tallahassee, FL on April 8.

It did not take long for UF to get on the board as junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/2, R, 2 BB) walked to open the bottom of the first and scored four batters later when junior first baseman Braden Mattson singled to right field.

The Gators boosted their advantage with two more runs in the sixth. Mattson (2/4, RBI, R, SB) singled to open the frame, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on a throwing error by pitcher Peter Miller, who corralled a sacrifice bunt from junior right-handed starter and designated hitter Justin Shafer but let it get away on a throw to first. Shafer scored unearned as freshman third baseman John Sternagel reached on a fielder’s choice with one out, and UF ended the inning leading 3-0.

Things got testy in Jacksonville two innings later when FSU left fielder D.J. Stewart hit a dribbler down the first-base line and collided with Florida sophomore lefty reliever Danny Young, who tried to field the ball in the base path but dropped it before Stewart arrived. UF junior 1B Zach Powers took offense to Stewart’s trucking of Young and met him chest-to-chest beyond the bag. Stewart responded by shoving Powers, and the benches cleared with both teams pushing and shoving.

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Florida baseball wins season-opening series

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Winning their season-opening series could have been easier for the No. 20/23 Florida Gators, but coming out of the weekend with a 2-1 record was nevertheless a good start for a young squad that fought to the finish over the last three days.

Florida bookended the weekend with victories over the Maryland Terrapins (1-2) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, kicking things off with a 4-0 shutout Friday on opening night in the only game of the series that was televised.

Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) delivered a solid outing as the opening night starter. Primarily used as a reliever and midweek starter during his first two seasons with the Gators, the third-year lefty made his case for a rotation spot this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League, posting a 1.71 ERA over seven starts with the Orleans Fire. His five strikeouts Friday were a career-high, and Florida’s offense did a good job making him feel comfortable with some early runs.

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2014 Florida baseball primer: Bounce back year?

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

The unanimously top 25-ranked Florida Gators are hoping to bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign that saw the team go 29-27 in the regular season and get bounced out of both league and national postseason play without winning a single game.

UF also lost five players to the 2014 MLB Draft – including three top pitchers – and enters 2014 with a young but talented roster filled with up-and-coming prospects.

In the offseason, seventh-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan signed a top-notch 2014 recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game. The 15-member class makes up 43 percent of Florida’s roster, which features two fourth-year players (redshirt juniors) but not a single senior.

One year ago, the departures of nine MLB draft selections loomed large on opening night. This Friday, when UF begins the 2014 campaign with a three-game home series against Maryland, the most notable absence from the lineup card will be a current Gators outfielder in sophomore Harrison Bader. Bader was indefinitely suspended after police suspected alcohol played a role in a Feb. 2 scooter accident. Without him, Florida lacks its best hitter (.312) and one of only four designated outfielders.

Here’s what O’Sullivan (252-132) has to work with as the Gators open the 2014 campaign looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointments and begin moving in the right direction toward another College World Series berth.

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Florida baseball quickly knocked out of regional

Florida Gators baseball was knocked out of the Bloomington Regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in quick order over the weekend, losing late leads in both games and seeing its season end during regional play for the first time since 2008.

The Gators (29-30) finished the 2013 season with a sub-.500 record for both the first time since 2007 and first time under the leadership of head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Trailing the No. 21 Austin Peay Governors 1-0 through five innings on Friday, Florida took a lead in the top of the sixth as sophomore right fielder Justin Shafer (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, R) came through with a big three-run homer.

Unfortunately for the Gators, which got a solid start from junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (6.1 IP, 4 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K), sophomore RHP Ryan Harris could not hold on to the lead in the eighth. Harris (1.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 K) coughed up a three-run dinger to designated hitter Michael Davis that gave the Governors a 4-3 lead and sent UF down to the Bloomington Regional loser’s bracket.

Florida matched up against the Valparaiso Crusaders on Saturday in an elimination game and once again looked to have the upper hand.

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